For businesses big and small, protecting the mental health of employees is becoming an increasing priority. Having supportive and understanding policies in place and open company culture ideas (which allows people to discuss any struggles they are facing) is both a human and business decision. It upholds a business’s duty of care to their employees, as well as reducing the commercial costs of illness later down the line. For small business owners, who often have to manage a lot of stress, it is also something which can affect them personally.
The Cost of Mental Health Issues
On a financial level, the effect of mental health issues among employees and business leaders is profound – costing the American economy over $105 billion a year. Absenteeism, staff turnover and lowered productivity are the result of illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, problems such as chronic stress and burnout – which many people experience – are extremely common and can be extremely damaging to staff morale and engagement.
It would impossible to expect businesses to solve this by themselves. Many people join organizations with pre-existing disorders such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and the increase in mental health issues generally is something that involves many medical, societal and cultural factors. However, the majority of people spend a big part of their lives at work, and poor working conditions, unreasonable workloads and bad management can exacerbate – or even trigger – ill mental health.
This can also impact small business owners personally. Firstly, entrepreneurs want to ensure the well being of their staff because no one wants to contribute to someone else’s distress, and secondly, business owners can find themselves becoming burnt out and unwell when they neglect their own self-care. When entrepreneurs sacrifice too much of their personal work life balance and rest to drive their business forward, the result is often chronic stress which – eventually but inevitability – will compromise their ability to perform.
Good Mental Health Practices
Initially, simply being aware of mental health as an issue is a great first step. Research panic attacks, avoidance behavior and other signs of mental health problems so you can understand any out-of-the-ordinary behavior from your employees. For example, if a usually engaged and enthusiastic employee is suddenly not turning up to work, appears upset or distracted, and is underperforming, take them aside to discuss it calmly before enacting any disciplinary processes. Emotional awareness will stop you from piling on the pressure and making matters worse, should it come to light that they are struggling.
You can also implement corporate wellbeing programs. Many meditation and yoga companies, such as this company which teaches transcendental meditation in London, offer corporate packages to help businesses improve the well being of their employees. One of the benefits of meditation is reduced anxiety and greater ability to manage illnesses like depression, and practices like this can also hugely reduce stress. Even if it’s just sending out a company-wide email explaining the benefits of yoga or meditation with some introductory poses or a simple breathing exercise, it could help your employees find self-care practices which help them stay happy and healthy.
You should also look at your management team, and your own leadership style. Some workplaces are inevitably going to become, on occasion, a high-stress environment (like restaurants during a busy service). However, any stress will be vastly reduced by the way managers handle the situation and a good company culture. Don’t let anyone in a position of authority use aggression to get results, and discourage micromanaging – not being allowed to get on with their jobs is guaranteed to drive employee stress levels through the roof.
It’s also important to respond to employee’s personalities. You shouldn’t let the workaholics take on more than they can manage, or put too much pressure on shyer employees to be outgoing. Pushing a more anxious and shy person to deal with a difficult customer, for example, is probably going to upset them a lot more than simply dealing with it yourself. You should also ensure that overtime is a choice rather than a requirement, and that everyone takes their holiday allowance and breaks, especially if some members of staff have a tendency to overwork.
By being aware of mental health problems and making sure that your organization is as stress-free as possible, you will be doing your part for the well being of your employees – to both a personal and business advantage.
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